Tigers beat Contreras, win series from White Sox

Updated: July 20, 2006, 7:09 PM ET
SportsTicker

DETROIT -- Academy Award winners Tom Hanks and Ron Howard saw firsthand why the Detroit Tigers have the best record in baseball.

A solid start by Kenny Rogers, superb work in the bullpen, clutch hitting and aggressive baserunning were all key ingredients in the Tigers' latest win - a 2-1 victory over the reigning world champion Chicago White Sox.

And this was extra significant because it came in the rubber game of a mid-week series and pushed Detroit's lead to 5 1/2 games over the White Sox in the American League Central Division.

Entering the series, the Tigers (64-31) owned the best record in the majors, but they had to make a statement against Chicago, which won five of the previous six meetings.

It didn't start out well when the White Sox posted a 7-1 win here on Tuesday. But the Tigers bounced back with a 5-2 win on Wednesday as Craig Monroe hit a grand slam and Jeremy Bonderman allowed two runs in 7 1/3 innings.

This time, with Hanks, who was wearing a Tigers cap, and Howard in the stands, the Tigers provided the blueprint for their astounding success under first-year manager Jim Leyland.

"It was a good win for us," Leyland said. "We got good pitching from Rogers, two-out hits, a good clean takeout and a super job by our bullpen. That's baseball, that's good baseball."

Rogers provided the solid start, yielding one run and six hits in six innings. Rookie Joel Zumaya (5-1) followed Rogers and dazzled the crowd with his 100-mile-per-hour fastball, pitching two innings with three strikeouts. Then Todd Jones recorded three flyouts in the ninth inning for his 25th save in 28 chances.

"Zumaya strikes everybody out," Jones said. "Then I come in and get work for everybody else. What I do is not a picture, but I get the job done."

Jose Contreras (9-2) went nearly a year without a loss before falling to the New York Yankees last Friday. It took him less than a week to absorb another loss, although he was effective on Thursday, allowing two runs in seven innings.

"My losing streak is something that happens in baseball," Contreras said through an interpreter. "You go through down points in a season, and this is one of the lowest."

The Cuban righthander won 17 straight decisions in 24 regular-season starts before the streak ended.

"Jose (Contreras) pitched real well," White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. "He did a tremendous job, but we didn't help him."

The White Sox, who were swept in a three-game series at Yankee Stadium before this series, scored their only run of the game in the fourth inning but blew a chance to get more with the bases loaded and one out.

After retiring the first batter in the fourth, Rogers walked Jim Thome and Paul Konerko. Jermaine Dye then hit a bloop single to right to load the bases and Joe Crede followed with an RBIs single to left.

But Rogers escaped further damage, retiring Juan Uribe on popout to second and Chris Widger on a flyout to left.

"I was too carefull with those two hitters and ended up walking them," Rogers said. "I got my rhythm and timing back and was able to get out of the inning."

Contreras was leading the duel of All-Star pitchers until the Tigers tied the game in the sixth. Curtis Granderson doubled to left and scored on a two-out single up the middle by Ivan Rodriguez.

Zumaya then took over for Rogers and picked up the win when the Tigers scored the go-ahead run in the seventh. And here's where aggressive baserunning paid off for Detroit.

Contreras walked Marcus Thames with one out and Monroe followed with a potential double-play grounder to third. But Thames executed a perfect takeout of Tadahito Iguchi after the second baseman caught the throw from Crede, preventing any chance of a double play.

"The third baseman (Crede) hung him (Iguchi) out to dry," Thames said. "I just starting hauling my butt to second to do anything to help the team. I knew it was a clean play, because most of my body was on the bag."

Chris Shelton then doubled to the gap in left center and Monroe scored all the way from first.

"I just wanted to extended the inning," Shelton said. "I got a good fastball over the plate and was able to get it up the gap to score the run."

Guillen brought in closer Bobby Jenks to pitch the eighth and the All-Star threw a scoreless inning. But it was all for naught when Jones retired all three batters he faced in the ninth.

"They kicked our butts," Guillen said. "They pitched well, and when we had a couple chances, we did not take them. This was a disappointing road trip. We can play better than this, but we didn't have the clutch hitting."

This story is from ESPN.com's automated news wire. Wire index